Despite having a roll call of great British screen actors ‘Scrooge 1951’ is easily the best ever adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’ due mainly to the dominance of Alastair Sim in the title role.
Yet, this beautifully atmospheric version, is certainly not a one man vehicle.
The film also features Kathleen Harrison (famous for the Huggett films, The Pickwick papers and later many TV roles) as Mrs. Dilber; George Cole (who we all remember from the St Trinians films and later the UK television series Minder) as the young Scrooge.
Hermione Baddeley (Brighton Rock, Room at the Top) as Mrs. Cratchit: Mervyn Johns (1984, Moby Dick, Day of the Triffids) as Bob Cratchit: Jack Warner (Dixon of Dock Green) as Mr. Jorkin; Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) as a young Jacob Marley, and Michael Hordern (Where Eagles Dare, Ghandi) plays Marley's ghost, as well as old Marley.
Every actor fills their role with purpose making each character a memorable vignette in their own right and the excellent story and fine writing, ensure that this is one of those excellent films where no characters, and therefore no actors, are wasted by being used merely as links or filler.
This adaption of the Charles Dickens’ short story, like any translation from page to screen, differs from the orginal narrative but even in this respect the film cannot be faulted.
In the flashback sequences the film adds detail of Scrooge’s rise, his rejection of old Mr Fezziwig, the formation of Scrooge and Marley, and his subsequent decent into life as an old miser.
We are also told that Ebenezar’s mother died while giving birth to him and also that his nephew Fred’s birth resulted in the death of Scrooge’s sister and therefore explains why, in a similar way that Scrooge’s father had reason to resent his son, Ebenezar resents his nephew.
This adds meat to the film without taking anything from the substance contained in the original story.
All this however would not have made a for a great film without a excellent performance in the pivotal role. It is Sim’s superb performance that everyone remembers.
Alastair Sim is everything you need from a lead actor in what is a desperately dark, but ultimately uplifting, festive, story. This excellent performance makes the conversion from ‘Bah humbug’ misery to ‘I don’t deserve to be so happy’ benefactor a perfectly believable process.
Therefore when the new, improved, Ebenezar Scrooge is revealed in the final scenes we easily accept the complete contrast between the character we meet in the opening segments and the one revealed in the finale.
The ending of Scrooge 1951 is joyous. The thought of the childlike, excited, Scrooge, dancing, jigging, head-over-heels with happiness, at the finale still makes me smile, and in those moments alone, make the choice of a comic actor for the role an inspired one.
A wonderful film.